The next time you play, I want you to record how many shots you take outside of 100 yards, and record how many shots you take within 100 yards of the pin.
You will immediately realize the importance of practicing your short game. If you are trying to shave strokes off of your score, then gaining confidence with your short game will allow you to do that. Whether it is trying to beat your playing partners on the last hole, or finish off the best round of your life, it always seems to come down to a putt or a crucial up-and-down situation. I am going to give some examples of practice drills you can do to improve your short game, and to give yourself the confidence it takes to pull these different shots off in the clutch moments in your round.
The first thing that I have to say about practicing your short game is that if you go to a putting green for an hour, lay a few balls down and putt till you get bored, you are not going to see a significant difference in your game. I was taught that if you do not have some way of tracking what you are doing on the putting green then there is nothing to base whether you are getting quality practice. Here are a few practice drills for the chipping/putting green. These drills will really help you with the progression of your short game.
The first drill has many different forms to it. You can mix this drill up and tailor it to your game and practice style. I call this drill “pressure putt”. I look around the putting green for a 3 ft putt that has no break to it–the straighter the putt the better. Place a tee in the green 3 ft away. Get a few golf balls. The goal of this drill is to not only make 10 putts in a row, but to make them with good pace and focus on your form. You want to focus on the back of the cup and watch the ball rolling into it. Once you have made 10 putts in a row from 3 feet, move the tee back to a 5 foot putt. You will notice while practicing this drill that if you lose focus you will miss putts. It becomes frustrating when you make 8 or 9 putts, and you miss one and have to start over again. That is why it is called “pressure putt”. In this drill you are faced with having to concentrate on numerous pressure putts. If you are not putting well, or if you are not concentrating on the fundamentals for the entirety of the drill you will be on the putting green for hours. This drill will help you eliminate a lot of 3 putts. It will also help you “groove” your putting stroke. It will allow you to take a lot of thinking out of those pesky three to five footers that cause so much frustration on the golf course.
This is a good drill for the chipping/putting green. It will help you with your feel around the green and will help you develop an idea of the different ways your golf ball will react once it lands on the green. To perform the drill, you can use golf clubs, but I suggest using pieces of yarn or string about three to four feet wide. Place the yarn or string on the green at incremental distances apart, similar to a ladder. You then number each string, starting with the first line being #1, and the second being #2. Find a spot just off the green (you can move the ball into whatever conditions you want to work on). Your goal is to chip the balls so at least two land between lines one and two and progress to the next distance between lines two and three. If you are trying to land the balls between 1 and 2 and you fail to do so, then keep chipping until you land two consecutive balls into the section you are shooting for before you move on to the next section. Once you complete the drill going from 1 to 5, come back the other way. This drill will help you with your feel around the green. It will give you the opportunity to learn how to pick a spot on the green and to make your ball land on that spot and release to where you want it to. A lot of chipping success comes down to picking a spot on the green, and then executing the shot to land the ball on that spot. This drill much like the “pressure putts” drill in the sense it will help you put pressure on yourself to hit good shots. If you don’t hit the shots the way you need to, this drill will take much longer than wanted. To make this drill fun, you can invite a friend and put a point system on each section of the ladder. Every time you successfully land a chip in the desired section, you get three points, and every time you don’t you subtract a point. The person who completes the ladder with the most points wins. You can even do this drill in a back yard or in an area where you can chip, but you won’t get the same feedback on how the ball will react on the green.
I hope these few practice drill suggestions help you practice your short game more effectively. They are both really good drills to help you gain confidence in yourself to execute shots when the pressure is on. Try to perform these drills a few days a week and you will have a much better time playing golf this season.